The Real EVE

CCP Quant's analysis of player characters by type of space

By CCP Quant's figures, three out of every four characters in EVE Online reside in high-sec space. Even if you assume that a substantial portion of this is comprised of alt characters of null-sec residents, that still means that well over half of all players operate almost exclusively in Empire space.

This is a tragedy, and is horrible for EVE Online.

The EVE Pretenders

No high-sec resident is actually playing EVE Online. Only players who operate in null-sec space (the elite 12 percent of all characters, according to CCP Quant's statistics) can legitimately claim that title. The Real EVE is a PvP game, and only a PvP game - no other activity in EVE Online has any significant impact or value. Null-sec residents only do ratting and mission-running and moon mining and complexes and other ISK-generating activities simply to cover costs of The Real EVE: PvP and fighting for sovereignty.

It is true that wormhole and low-sec residents engage in something that resembles PvP, but they do so without the ability to plant a flag and publicly declare their space. As a result, their kind of PvP isn't really EVE either. In fact, they are cowards for hiding in unclaimable space. This is probably because they suffer from a universal character flaw: they are unwilling to commit themselves to a larger purpose, and therefore, are just amateur null-sec wannabes, at best. Fortunately, so few people play in low-sec and wormhole space (a combined 10 percent of all characters) that we can discount them all as insignificant.

High-sec PvP is a laughable idea. Ganking, wardecs or dueling are not really PvP, as there is no lasting impact beyond asset losses. Just because two or more players are involved does not mean that combat in high-sec is meaningful. High-sec fights are just the strong preying on the weak - nothing of enduring importance is at stake, and therefore, there is no honor in it.

How to Fix EVE

CCP owes null-sec players everything. Null-sec battles and wars generate all the publicity for EVE Online, and are truly the only reason that anyone ever joins the game. Virtually all new subscriptions are generated by null-sec activity alone. Without the public relations engine of 0.0 politics, new entrants into EVE Online would dwindle to nothing, and CCP Games would cease to exist as a business. CCP's plan to lure new people in with a free-to-play option will fail if null-sec alliances don't create newsworthy wars to attract Alpha clone players into the game.

It is right and just, therefore, that CCP devote all their time and attention to the needs and wants of null-sec players, before any other player constituency. In fact, allocating valuable CCP development and customer support resources to cater to any group other than null-sec players is a poor use of time and money. In The Real EVE, the only things that matter are fighting and holding sov. Everything else is simply a wasteful distraction, and should be eliminated.

For example, EVE Online's science fiction theme, lore and backstory are unimportant. No one who plays The Real EVE cares about lore - it has no impact on PvP or on sovereignty. Imagine if CCP Games were to redirect the funds spent on pointless lore writing, video production, website development and artwork to improving the vitality of The Real EVE in null-sec space. No one would miss this extraneous misappropriation to meaningless atmosphere in the game.

There are far too many useless features in EVE Online. Attributes, factions, standings, skill training, ISK - all are unnecessary for playing The Real EVE.

In fact, if CCP stripped out all mechanics for resource gathering and building things from the game, EVE Online would be the better for it. Ships, modules and ammo should be readily available for free, so that players can focus on real EVE play, and not be distracted by mining, invention, manufacturing, hauling, market trading, exploration or anything else that takes away from the only important parts of the game: fighting and holding sov. The only reason for preserving player-owned structures in the game is that they provide interesting explosion fodder for combat operations.

Null-sec sovereignty - everything else is irrelevant.

The Only Space that Matters

The huge cancerous mass of high-sec, low-sec and wormhole-based characters is distracting CCP Games from focusing development resources on making The Real EVE better. In fact, the best thing that CCP Games could do is expunge the cancer and convert all systems to null-sec security levels, immediately. Eliminate Empire space completely. Get rid of the weird netherworld of low-sec space. Drop the lore-laden disaster of faction warfare altogether. Make every system claimable, even in wormhole space. Instead of starting them in meaningless NPC corps, place all new players (including all free-to-play Alpha clone players) automatically in null-sec alliance corps, where they will be taught to play The Real EVE.

Drop all PvE, industry and market mechanics from the game. In return, make ships, modules and ammo freely available from NPC stations. Let all players start with maximum skills, so they can fly anything. Discard any aspect of the game that isn't The Real EVE. Make New Eden great again, by converting it into a PvP and sov-holding paradise, everywhere.

Only then can EVE Online be saved. The carebear attitude fostered by the safety of high-sec will be eliminated, and all new players will be forced immediately into The Real EVE. The pretend PvP of low-sec and w-space will disappear, and those players will see the light and convert to honorable, sov-holding alliances. Sov warfare on a scale never seen before will break out, and the publicity generated will cause hundreds of thousands of new players to flood into the game. CCP's coffers will overflow with newfound wealth.

It will be a glorious Golden Age for EVE Online.

Note: the entirety of the preceding post is composed of statements I have read in EVE-related blogs, forums, and social media, or have heard in EVE-focused videocasts, podcasts, or at player gatherings.

In case you thought this wasn't satire, I would like to make you familiar with Poe's law.

My sincere thanks to a couple of fellow EVE media friends for the valuable input on this post. You know who you are.

Fly safe! o7

A Case of the Dumbs

One of the best - and sometimes, the worst - things about EVE Online is that even the slightest error can cascade quickly into hilariously tragic consequences in very short order. (Remember Asakai, anyone?) To paraphrase the great Robert Heinlein, space is a harsh mistress - it will turn on you with vengeance in a moment, if you ever commit the sin of becoming too complacent.

Sort of reminds me of my charming bride on one of her off days - but I digress.

Unfortunately, my EVE Online career is full of sad examples of losses resulting from the simplest of mistakes. I can say with conviction that every time I have lost a ship, it was always 100 percent my own fault - the result of being inattentive, overconfident or just plain lazy.

The lesson to be learned here is this: if your diligence in space ever wavers, EVE Online will gleefully take the opportunity to bludgeon you on the side of the head with a bat. And it will continue to whack forcefully on your skull until this knowledge is driven firmly into your consciousness.

EVE Online always knows what's best for you, whether your like it or not. Get used to it, or be prepared to die - a lot.

Never get out of line when flying in space, or EVE Online's gonna slap you - hard.

Never get out of line when flying in space, or EVE Online's gonna slap you - hard.

That Moment When...

My hauling alt's corp has been under a wardec for the past week. Yesterday, I received one of those happy notifications from CONCORD saying that war was ending in 24 hours.

"Oh, good," says I. "Now I can finish those courier contracts that have been backing up."

I go out to dinner with the family, content in the knowledge that I will soon be able to fly my freighter safely again.

I return home late, eager to get online and finish a couple of those contracts before I go to bed. I'm tired and fuzzy-headed, but it's just a quick run from Jita to Amarr - a short 9 jumps - so it shouldn't take long. Easy, peasy.

The cargo is small, so I fit reinforced bulkheads to maximize my tank. Satisfied with the fit, I undock from Jita 4-4. Everything is running routinely for the first three jumps - and then I see a red band appear on my overview.

No big deal - I see red bands all the time, usually from pilots with negative security status flying capsules in high sec. But then I see it's a Condor. And now he's targeting me - hmmm, isn't that interesting.

Whoa - now he's webbed and scrammed me. And launching rockets. A sliver of red appears on my HUD.

"How cute," I say aloud to myself, and I smile wearily. "Somebody must want to lose their ship tonight." I watch the screen intently, curious about how long it will take CONCORD to rain their torrent of justice upon my aggressor.

And I wait. A minute passes.

My smile turns to a frown. CONCORD hasn't arrived. The sliver of red slowly rises on my HUD.

I finally bother to take a look at the Condor pilot. He's in the corp that wardec'd us last week.

Oh, crap.

I open my mail notifications, and re-check the time that the war was ending.

Oh, fuuuuu.........

Needless to say, this encounter didn't end well. In short order, the Condor was joined by a gaggle of his buddies, and I ended up using my podsaver tab on the Overview to warp off safely after my ship was blown to smithereens. I docked up in a station, and issued my congratulations in Local. All's fair in war, as they say.

It was a simple mistake - I assumed I knew when the war was ending, and undocked without verifying that first. When you make a bad assumption in EVE Online, you generally lose something valuable.

Fortunately, I was fully insured, so my actual material loss wasn't intolerable. I lost a bit of collateral from the failed cargo contract, but that wasn't bad, either.  But I chastised myself for being so dumb - I named my rookie ship that I received after docking, "The Cone of Shame".

Owning Up

I've learned to own my mistakes in EVE Online, no matter how painful a reminder of my fallibility they may be. They make for great stories to tell at Fanfest or when I'm teaching classes to new players at EVE University. That's because I've realized that I learn far more from my errors than I do from my successes. When you master a new aspect of the game, and it pays off, you simply reap the rewards for doing something you'd already planned or expected. However, when you screw up tremendously, that's when the real lesson begins.

I'm always highly suspicious of players who brag about their combat kills or their vast riches in game, but who won't own up to losses or mistakes. I discount these people immediately, because they typically have nothing to offer, other than: "I do it right, and you are doing it wrong."

The best industrialists, market traders and PvP pilots are all quick to share how they lost profits, screwed up a trade, or got their ship blown up, because they are all excellent at one essential skill: they know how to identify where they went wrong, and what they can do better. There's no doubt that I have become a far better EVE Online player by dissecting my mistakes than I have by achieving my successes.

Still, having to learn from silly mistakes is always a little painful. I'd prefer that I keep my occasional bouts of the dumbs to a minimum. My hope is that by sharing my mistakes with others, I can help others avoid the the same kinds of blunders, at least.

Fly safe! o7


I feel a change comin' on

Well, now what's the use in dreamin'?
You got better things to do
Dreams never did work for me anyway
Even when they did come true

I was thinking about imminent changes in EVE Online, and I was reminded of Bob Dylan's cynical lyrics from his song, "I Feel a Change Comin' On". Before every new expansion, players' collective hopes run rampant, fueled by the CCP Games' marketing hype machine and rising torrent of enthusiastic pre-release dev blogs and forum posts. We hope for improved functionality, better gameplay, more options, new ships, cool modules, additional content - and more fun to be found in our chosen pastime.

And generally, CCP Games has delivered, albeit with a few stumbles along the way. (Just whisper "Incarna" into the ear of a dev at Fanfest, and watch them go into uncontrollable spasms - it's mean, but it's fun.) Regardless of what you may think of the quality of EVE Online at the moment, there's no doubt that the game has evolved and improved steadily over time. If you don't believe me, think back to what playing EVE was like a few years ago, and compare it to the greatly improved graphics, better integrated mechanics, improved usability and wider diversity of choices for players that are available in the game today. This is a principal reason why I continue to play EVE Online, five years after first giving it a try.

Yet, after every expansion, I hear players complain that the reality never quite lives up to the hype. I must admit I have felt this way myself. I had very high hopes for both Odyssey and Rubicon, but once they were released, I found them enjoyable but not quite as exciting or as engaging as I hoped they would be.

Before their respective releases, I speculated on the potential success of each of these expansions in prior posts, anticipating significant increases in player subscriptions and participation, but neither panned out that way. In fact, the general reaction to these expansions from the player base seemed to be something along the lines of: "Not bad - but meh."

As a group, we EVE Online players tend to be a retroactively phlegmatic audience. Many of us forget how good our game really is, despite CCP Games' efforts to impress us with each expansion.

Hail Kronos!

Today, CCP Games rolls out the newest expansion to EVE Online, Kronos. Once again, I feel excited, in anticipation of new features and new ships. And once again, I feel the usual hope about how this update will increase player interest in EVE Online.

And yet, at the same time, I feel this strong sense of déjà vu. I'm always excited about shiny new features and ships, and I always assume that everyone else will feel the same way. This time, I have to admit that while I like a lot of what Kronos offers, I am cynical about how it could attract a wave of new subscribers.

I'm most excited about the new ships. The Tech II variant of the Venture mining frigate, the Prospect, will be my go-to ship for gas mining in low-sec space, In addition to being able to fit a covert ops cloak, it's speedy and has more capacity.

The new Mordu's Legion ships - the Garmur, Orthus and Barghest - are just so stealth-bomberish and cool-looking that I must once again congratulate CCP Games art team on their terrific designs. They did an outstanding job with the Sisters of EVE ships in Rubicon, and the Mordu's Legion ships look equally amazing, but in a wholly different way. One of my highest priority tasks will be to collect of each of these, once Kronos goes online.

The new Mordu's Legion frigate, the Garmur - flat, black, and just plain cool looking.

The new Mordu's Legion frigate, the Garmur - flat, black, and just plain cool looking.

I like how CCP Games has set up the means for acquiring the Mordu's Legion ships. Most players will likely procure their blueprints from special spawns of NPC rats in low-sec asteroid belts. This provides a new reason for potential targets to wander into low-sec. I just hope that these special spawns aren't so rare that it becomes frustrating. I was excited about ghost sites in Rubicon, too, but they appear so seldom that I soon gave up looking for them. I have my fingers crossed that the frequency of Mordu's Legion NPC spawns do not suffer from the same malady.

Kronos includes a new set of ship balancing changes. On the whole, I think these are necessary and will be successful in revitalizing interest in certain ships, especially some oft-ignored pirate ships like the Succubus and Ashimmu. This is a good thing, generally, but I am less enthused about the changes to deep space transports, which get a bonus for overheating, a large fleet cargo bay, and the weird ability to fit the new medium micro jump drive - which no one will use because the spool-up time is so long that it can be easily scrammed and caught. I don't see people rushing to use DSTs after Kronos debuts. Perhaps if they had a bonus to halve the MMJD spool-up time, which would make it harder to catch, it could become an interesting hauler alternative in dangerous space. For now, I'll stick with my trusty blockade runners, which got some nice little buffs, for hauling in low-sec and 0.0.

Though I do not think most players realize it yet, the biggest changes in Kronos are to drones, which get some re-balancing also. I'm going to have to update my guide to drones in this blog, that's for sure, as there are a lot of little but very significant alterations to the status quo. For one thing, I think people will actually start to use Amarr drones as the preferred anti-shield tanking weapon. We'll hear no more talk of the general worthlessness of Amarrian drones, I suspect. We may also begin to see wider use of meta-level and navy faction drones as well, which get some nice buffs.

There are also a lot of little things in Kronos that will just make it nicer to use. Kudos to CCP Karkur and the rest of the team working on user interface improvements. The improvements in cascading-menu selection, color-coded broadcast messages, reload and repair icon progress indicators, among others, will all make interacting with the challenging EVE Online client more intuitive. The ability to control various sounds in the client is going to be very handy, especially if you multi-box several clients at once, as I do. And the new warp in/out visual effect is fun to watch - I don't think I'll tire of seeing it anytime soon.

The best little change in Kronos is the elimination of the frustrating loot spew mechanic in exploration sites. Thank you, CCP Games! I always hated that idea. I know this means we'll see a nerf to the value of sites, but I don't care. That click-fest requirement always drove me nuts.

The Boiling Frog

What's perhaps more interesting about Kronos is what is not appearing in this expansion, but instead is being delayed to the next one, Crius, which is expected on July 22nd. Specifically, all of the massive changes to industry and production, which I've commented upon in previous posts at length, have been delayed for further tweaking. This takes a lot of the impact out of Kronos, reducing it to a nice set of general improvements, but it also means that CCP Games is not going to rush a major revamp of a critical aspect of the game out the door before it is ready. I'm a little disappointed that we won't be seeing the massive industry changes in Kronos, but I'm encouraged that CCP Games decided to withhold it for further polishing.

And this is perhaps the biggest change coming with Kronos, though it is largely invisible to most of the player base: CCP Games has moved from two massive expansion releases per year to numerous smaller releases about every six weeks or so. This will give the devs more options without huge deadline pressures - if a new feature isn't ready, it can simply slide to the next release window. As long as each little expansion contains something of substance, I think this approach should help improve new feature quality. We'll know for certain if it was a wise move after Crius comes out in July - the play value of the industry overhaul will be the first true measure of the wisdom of this incremental development approach.

While smaller releases with greater frequency makes good practical sense, it does present a significant marketing problem for CCP Games. The degree to which they can generate excitement around a particular expansion will be greatly diminished. I expect that the volume of marketing noise around specific expansions will dwindle, and the marketing emphasis will change instead to a continuous low hum of messages about EVE Online's unique qualities - including its long-established track record relative to other MMOs.

This does not bode well for convincing the unwashed masses to try EVE Online in huge, sudden waves. It's unlikely that we'll be seeing any large swells of new subscribers inbound any more. Rather, it appears that CCP Games has decided instead to strive for long-term, slow and steady growth, by releasing smaller continual improvements, and by spreading marketing investment fairly evenly across numerous venues, instead of jam-packing new features and a corresponding hype machine in bi-annually concentrated expansion announcements.

The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing, but expect different results. The past practice of concentrated development effort in large expansions, with associated marketing promotions, has not produced big numbers of new subscriptions. In fact, the number of players joining and participating after each expansion has been somewhat erratic, with trends going up and down and the average numbers remaining fairly static - and in fact, some observers suggest that the number of subscriptions may actually have decreased lately. If CCP Games has decided on purpose to try to build the subscription base of EVE Online incrementally over time, that seems to be to be a saner strategy.

The danger, however, is that even though the game is constantly improving, each small release doesn't make a significant impact individually. The tired metaphor of the boiling frog seems apropos here - no one may really notice if the quality of EVE Online features improves slowly over time, rather than announcing them less frequently in big, dramatic blasts. It certainly represents a more challenging marketing problem, to be sure.

We EVE Online players may dream of cool Internet spaceship features, but we tend to take them for granted even when our dreams come true. What a difficult audience we must be for the developers and marketers at CCP Games.

Fly safe! o7